Saturday, July 13, 2013

Homemade Vaccino Romano Cheese and Cheese Curds

You probably know Romano cheese as a type of cheese that is grated and used on Italian dishes, but Romano can also be eaten fresh or mildly aged as a table cheese.  This recipe is for Vaccino Romano, which is just a Romano cheese made with cows milk and I want to give you the option of also making it into cheese curds which of course get eaten fresh.  

To start off, I partially skim the cream off the milk to get 8 gallons of partially skimmed milk.

Next, after sanitizing my cheese vat, the thermometer, and stirring ladle, I pour all 8 gallons of milk into the vat and set it to medium-high heat on my largest burner.  Until the milk is heated to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I stir the milk every couple of minutes while checking the temperature.

When the milk gets to 90 degrees.  Turn off the heat and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of thermophilic culture over the top of the milk.  I get my cultures, rennet, and cheese making supplies from and have found his prices to be spot on competitive.  He also has great turn around on products and wonderful customer service.

After the culture has moistened for 5 minutes, I use the ladle to draw down the culture with up and down motions about 20 times to make sure it is fully incorporated into the milk.

For this recipe, the culture then sits in the milk for just 15 minutes with the cover on the pot to hold the 90 degree temperature.  

Then stir the milk again and add in a 1/2 cup of water that has been mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of rennet. Make sure to stir the rennet into the cultured milk really well, just like the culture had been stirred in, with about 20 up and down strokes, otherwise the cheese will not set properly.

Now cover and let the pot sit for 1 hour maintaining the 90 degree temperature.  Just a note on maintaining temperature.  If you are making a small batch of cheese you will not be able to just turn off the heat and expect your cheese to maintain the same temperature unless your room is 88 degrees also.  But if you make a large batch with 8 gallons, it takes a long time for that must heat to disburse.  I have found that making larger batches is just easier for me since I have so much milk on hand and temperature maintenance is not a problem.

Yes, it is a HUGE pot
After 1 hour, your cheese should have set and it should look like milk jello.

With a sanitized knife, cut the curd into pieces.

Let the curds settle for 5 minutes then turn the heat back on a temperature between medium and medium high until the curds and whey heat up to 117 degrees Fahrenheit.  This step should take about 40 minutes if heated at the right temperature.

Let the curds then settle to the bottom while sterilizing your draining colander and mould.  

If you are making a pressed cheese, then scoop the curds out of the pot (watch out 117 degrees is a bit hot on bare hands) and put them into a colander that has been lined with a natural cheese cloth and then a poly cheese cloth (the poly inside is necessary since curds this warm will knit right to the cloth and you will ruin your cloth and lose a lot of cheese when you change the cloth after an hour of pressing - take it from someone who knows all too well this happens.)

Next, lift the cloth and move all the curds into the tomme mould, with the cloth still around the curds, and then put the mould into the cheese press with medium pressure for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, take the cheese out of the cloth, turn it upside down and re-wrap it with a poly cheese cloth.

Now the cheese, in the mould, gets pressed under medium pressure for another 12 hours.

When the 12 hours are done, mix 1 cup of pickling salt with about 2 inches of cold water in a plastic container (see below).  And place the unwrapped cheese into the salt water brine.  Just a quick note, I cut my cheese into 2 pieces at this point because when I long term store my cheese for aging I vacuum seal them and the full cheese is too big for the sealing bags I use.  If you want a full round you do not have to cut your cheese in half like I do.

The cheese should sit in the brine for a total of 20 hours - 10 hours on each side.  Then, after being in the brine all day, take the cheese out, place it on a sanitized mat and put in the refrigerator for a few days to dry.  Then flip and dry for a few more days.

Your cheese, when completely dried, will be ready to eat or store.

Now, if you are making cheese curds the process from here is much simpler.  Just scoop the curds out of the pot, drain, and then break them up into a sanitized plastic tub.

Sprinkle the cheese with salt (however much you desire).

Then put the cheese into a container.  This recipe makes about a gallon of cheese.

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